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SIDS, PTSD, Abuse, and My Concrete Angel

My SIDS Angel

My SIDS Angel

This week has been a difficult one for me, and I find I am struggling even with the smallest of tasks. Yesterday, November 15, 2013, was my tiny angel’s 20th birthday. Instead of blowing out his candles, gorging himself on cake, and eagerly opening presents with his Mom, he celebrated with his heavenly Father. My son passed away almost 20 years ago, he was 9 weeks and 6 days old, from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (S.I.D.S.). I continue to feel the pain just as I did the day he died. A while after my sweet baby passed away, I was at a mall, and through a store window I saw a beautiful concrete angel. It was a figure of an angel holding a baby angel in it’s arms. The look on both of their faces appeared so peaceful that it brought me to tears. I decided right then I wanted to gift this same peace to my baby. The angel was encased in a clear resin container, and the container then attached to my sons headstone to watch over him. One day over 15 years ago the angel became dislodged, someone took it to repair it, and it has never returned to my son’s headstone or my hands again.

I am having so much difficulty with sadness and my PTSD during this time of my son’s birthday and the holidays. My level of anxiety is staggering, intrusive thoughts are many, and my self-doubt seems to be through the roof. Sleep seems to evade me, without nightmares that is. Maybe it’s because of his birthday, the impending holidays, a controlling boss, or maybe it’s just me. I often have days or weeks like this, but as always, this too shall pass. I find that some of the long-term effects of being abused as both a child and an adult can lay dormant for periods of time, only to resurface at varying times without warning. I figured I would take this opportunity, close to Thanksgiving, to thank all whom have given me these unpredictable recurrent gifts that will no-doubt last a lifetime. However, I am putting you all on notice that I will forever be working on trying to exchange them for peace as it will fit me better. Patience is a virtue, and persistence pays.

RN Writer 2013

USC study intersects teen births with foster care in LA County

Expecting

A first-of-its-kind study released on Nov. 12 links birth and child protective services records in Los Angeles County, revealing new insights regarding births to teens involved with the child welfare system. The new data documented that one in four teens in foster care gives birth before age 20 and as many as 40 percent of these young mothers have a second child during their teen years.

In the county overall, four in 10 teen mothers have been reported as alleged victims of abuse or neglect before pregnancy, and 20 percent have a history of substantiated maltreatment. Rates of abuse and neglect among children born to teens with a history of maltreatment victimization are two to more than three times the rates of children whose teen mothers had no involvement of child protective services. Read More

By Cynthia Monticue
Funded by the Hilton Foundation, the study was also led by Julie Cederbaum of USC and Barbara Needell and Bryn King of UC Berkeley.
USC

3 Children in Texas Sex Ring Allege Abuse in Foster Care

Three children who were victims of a swinger’s club in a small East Texas town have been removed from the custody of their foster parents after accusing their caretakers of physical and emotional abuse, a child welfare official said Wednesday.

A judge in Wood County on Tuesday ordered that the three siblings — a 13-year-old girl, 14-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl — plus a 17-year-old boy be placed in the temporary custody of Child Protective Services, said Shari Pulliam, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

The siblings had been living with John and Margaret Cantrell, who is the person who had first alerted authorities about the swinger’s club in Mineola, located about 80 miles east of Dallas. The couple had been taking care of the children since 2005. The 17-year-old boy was adopted by the Cantrells.

Sarah King, an attorney for the Cantrells, declined to comment Wednesday. No charges have been filed against the couple.

Officials said the three siblings had been some of the victims of a “kindergarten” where young children learned to dance provocatively at the so-called Mineola Swinger’s Club in 2004. To help them perform, prosecutors said the children were given Vicodin-like drugs the adults passed off as “silly pills.” Seven people were convicted in the case.

Pulliam said CPS was alerted on Oct. 31 when the 16-year-old girl ran away from the Cantrells home in Mineola after a “physical altercation between her and Mrs. Cantrell.”

“We were called by the Cantrells to pick up that 16 year old,” Pulliam said. “They were refusing to parent that child any longer.”

CPS workers interviewed the girl as well as the other three children, all of whom made allegations of abuse, Pulliam said.

According to court documents, the 16-year-old girl alleged she had been “slapped across the face” and “popped in the mouth” by Margaret Cantrell. Another child was allegedly beaten with a wooden back scratcher until it broke.

CPS had previously investigated similar allegations made against the Cantrells but they were not substantiated, Pulliam said.

The agency had also known that John Cantrell had faced charges in 2008 of a lewd act with a child related to a case from California. But nothing from that case could be used because the charges were later dropped, she said.

A judge had ordered that the three siblings be placed with the Cantrells, though CPS was not in favor of it, Pulliam said. The agency also didn’t approve of the Cantrells’ adoptions of the 17-year-old boy or another child who is now an adult.

“We felt there were problems with the home and we did not want the children to stay there,” she said.

Pulliam said CPS is still investigating the abuse allegations and will work with the Cantrells, offering them counseling and other services.

A status update on the case is scheduled for Dec. 6.

By Juan A. Lozano
|  Thursday, Nov 14, 2013  |  Updated 9:15 AM CST

 

10 Common Characteristics of Child Abuse Survivors

Broken Heart

Broken Heart

10  Common Characteristics of Child Abuse Survivors

I am sitting here this morning thinking about some of the long term effects of child abuse. Often adults that were abused tend to be extreme “people pleasers” and are fearful of authority. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with wanting to see others happy, but I’m not talking about typical niceness, generosity, or basic humanity. The focus here is the uncontrollable need to please others so that they don’t get mad, you don’t get in trouble (yes, adults abused as children continue to fear “getting in trouble”), or that loved ones will not leave. Here are 10  common characteristics of child abuse survivors.

  1. Incapable of Completely Trusting Others
  2. Depreciated Sense of Self-worth
  3. Elevated “Flight or Fight Response”
  4. Extreme Anxiety
  5. Inability to Express One’s Self
  6. Excessive Self-Doubt
  7. Difficulty Forming Bonds
  8. Chronic Over-achievers
  9. Highly Likely to Engage in Risky Behaviors
  10. Restlessness Within Themselves

This is just a mere few characteristics that plague child abuse survivors, and not all will exhibit all of these. The above list is what I see as a survivor myself, and what I see most often in my child/adolescent patients at the in-patient mental health hospital in which I work as a Psychiatric Nurse. The damage done leaves scars that can last a lifetime, and the challenges are fought daily.

Trust is a basic developmental milestone that is usually learned during infancy and reinforced throughout ones lifetime. For us, it is an elusive concept. Not having the ability to trust affects all relationships (intimate, casual, and professional), and often it affects what we are able to to achieve i.e., not trying to do new things for fear that something will happen to prevent completion of the achievement or endeavor. For example, many hesitate going to college or applying for a promotion because they may feel that their loved ones will need to be accepting of the time it takes to study, or that maybe a loved one will balk about the extra hours at a new job.

A healthy sense of self-worth is imperative to happiness. In general, people will try to do things they think they are capable of; therefore, if told often enough that they can’t do something they will begin to believe what is said and may never try for fear of failure. This further erodes their sense of self-worth. On the other hand, when accomplishments are achieved, it is tremendously difficult for child abuse survivors to receive compliments, often second guessing intentions or motives. Self-doubt also feeds into another characteristic of being an over-achiever, stemming from a sub-conscious need to prove ones self to be worthy.

Flight or fight response is a defense mechanism that causes anxiety, and is built into all of us for the purpose of self protection. I have been told, more often than not, that I remind people of a scared rabbit. Obviously I don’t actually look like a rabbit, but I have learned that I can appear very anxious or nervous even at times that others would not. It is akin to the saying “waiting for the other shoe to fall”, meaning I have become so accustomed to bad things happening, that I am always anxiously waiting for the inevitable. It is exhausting to say the least, and I can’t count the number of times people say to me “just don’t worry about it”. Do they not understand I am not equipped properly to “just not worry about it”?

Infants and toddlers learn to express themselves to get what they need and what they want. Child abuse survivors often struggle with the basic tool of communication. We can talk, of course, but being able to articulate what we want to say without anxiety or exposing our emotions is quite the challenge. This characteristic links back to some of the others we have already talked a bit about like trust, self worth, anxiety, self-doubt etc. It is often a balancing act to tell others how we feel without worrying about our wording, the judgement of others, or exposing our emotions. Often self-doubt wins and self expression is lost. The fear of these things and of exposing ourselves to potential harm, real or perceived, is too risky.

Difficulty forming bonds is another common characteristic that is seen as a result of child abuse. Okay, please note, I am not at all saying that we can not have relationships or form bonds with our children, family members, for friends at all, I am just stating that it can be challenging for many of us. My difficulty with this centers around my inability to trust, and I find that it is hard for me to express emotions to others verbally in a way that conveys the true depth of my feelings for them. A lot of times when expressing ourselves the words can sound shallow or lacking emotion. This is likely also the result of not wanting to expose ourselves to harm and lack of trust in others with our emotions and innermost thoughts.

The need to achieve at work, school, parenting, sports, and other activities to the point of working excessively long hours, pushing yourself to exhaustion to complete projects early, relentless researching, and many other behaviors engaged in for the purpose of noticeably excelling at a task or activity are behaviors associated with overachievers. Over-achieving for the survivor of child abuse is a simple concept….be good…really good and you will be loved, accepted, kept worthy.

Drugs, promiscuity, self-injurious behavior, and fighting are just a few of the numerous risky behaviors that plague child abuse victims. It is not uncommon for others to label these children/adults as “bad” or “trouble”, when the truth is much different. Often these behaviors result from trying to cope with pain, shame, anger, and disappointment. Surely these are not appropriate ways to cope, but remember, some of us didn’t ever learn to cope in healthy ways with our feelings. Coping skills are tools learned to deal, in positive ways, with negative emotions or situations in life. Our toolbox is empty until someone realizes this, and cares enough to help us fill it up. Sadly, without tools to cope, many child abuse victims engage in risky behaviors for many years, and some have so much difficulty coping and are so hopeless that they may tragically take their own lives.

The last characteristic is the hardest one to explain, as I struggle with this one myself and have a tough time understanding it fully. Restlessness with my life, not the type of restlessness that causes you to get up and do something, or move your legs because you are uncomfortable. It might be best described as the inability to find peace and happiness with ones current lifestyle, job, location, accomplishments, contributions, and self. I always feel that there is something else I should be doing, or find myself searching relentlessly for something without really ever knowing what I am looking for. Could it be safety? Peace? Happiness? Love? Trust? Would I even fully recognize it?

I am writing this article to share with you some of the long-term effects of child abuse for two reasons. First, I believe awareness is the key to helping others, and secondly I want to share some insight from the prospective of a child abuse survivor. Not all children will suffer all of the characteristics I have shared with you here. Just as each child is unique, the spectrum of injuries to body, mind, and spirit that result from child abuse are also unique. There is one thing we all have in common; we all deserve to be loved. Make a difference, even if it’s only in one child’s life because “it will make a difference to that one”. – Starfish Storyadapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

RN Writer 2013

Boy Found Chained to a Bed in North Carolina

22 Aug 2013 / Posted by cr
Jed Maddalon entered foster care after he was found chained to a bed. While he now has a loving family, Jed’s journey through North Carolina’s child welfare system was harrowing. WCNC Charlotte featured his story and it begins with Jed almost dying:
“He was severely neglected to the point of dehydration and starvation, almost death. He was basically left to fend for himself, physically abused,” says Brooks Shelley, Jed’s dad. Shelley and his partner, Billy Maddalon, formally adopted Jed in 2010.
“He was locked in a room and fed from a dish on the floor in a pretty primitive way. I don’t know how else to describe it, except he was raised as a dog,” Billy says.
Jed and his family know this because Jed has his foster care files. The files show that he went through about 30 different placements–all before he turned 13 years old. The trauma of being moved around so much took its toll–Jedwould destroy things in his foster homes to see if his new parents would abandon him like all the rest:
“Once you’ve been backstabbed so many times, it’s just hard for you to trust and love,” he says.
Because Jed often ran away from foster homes, the state sent him to a mental institution. That’s where Brooks and Billy first met Jed, and their memories of that time show what it’s like for some kids who end up institutionalized. According to Brooks, ” “”He seemed lost and defeated.”
“That was a nightmare. Probably the worst place I’ve ever been to in my life,” Jed recalls.
“I’ve likened it to One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest but you know you see that kind of stuff on TV and you don’t actually think it’s real. I’m here to tell you, it’s the juvenile version of it,” Billy says.
Billy and Brooks soon decided to become foster parents and go through the challenging process of getting Jed out of the institution. While both of them had specialized training for dealing with Jed’s PTSD, they were stunned by the level of trauma Jed had been through:
Brooks says, “He liked to eat beneath the table. He would hoard food because he was convinced there wouldn’t be enough food.”
Jed tried to run away, but his new parents refused to give up. Instead, they gave him the love and help he needed. Jed is now 19 and knows that he’s finally with a family that won’t abandon him:
“It took me a while to say that I actually trust them and love them,” Jed admits. “Because I had never trusted anyone or loved anyone.”
Until now.

Article Obtained From www.childrensrights.org

Must Read – Facts About Foster Care

Hands of Children

Hands of Children

Too many children are trapped in foster care.

  • On any given day, there are approximately 400,000 children in out-of-home care in the United States.
  • During the last year about 650,000 children spent some time in out-of-home care in the United States.
  • Children entering foster care remain there on average for nearly two years.
  • Despite the common perception that most children in foster care are young children, the average age of the children in foster care is over nine years old.
  • The median amount of time children spent in foster care increased between 2000 (12 months) and 2011 (13.5 months). On average, children in the American child welfare systems spend about two years — 23.9 months — in foster care. Ten percent of children in foster care have languished there for five or more years.
  • While most children in foster care live in family settings, a substantial minority — 15 percent — live in institutions and group homes.
  • Nearly half of all children in foster care have chronic medical problems.
  • About half of children under five years old in foster care have developmental delays.
  • Up to 80 percent of all children in foster care have serious emotional problems.
  • More than 60,000 children living in foster care have had their biological parental rights permanently terminated. The assumption is that once parental rights have been terminated, the State should work as rapidly as possible to ensure that the child is safely in a new adoptive home and that the adoption is finalized. Yet of these children, the average time they’ve been waiting to be adopted is nearly two years (23.6 months).
  • In 2011, 11 percent of the children (over 26,000) exiting foster care aged out of the system. Research has shown that teens aging out of the system are highly likely as adults to experience homelessness, poor health, unemployment, incarceration, and other poor outcomes.
  • Sixteen percent of children in foster care in 2011 were in foster care for three or more years before they were emancipated.

Information Obtained from www.childrensrights.org

 

The Starfish Story

Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, ”Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”

adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

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